I met Dr. Hoa in 1988 during my first trip back to Vietnam since the war. She was the director of the pediatric hospital in Saigon and a colorful figure to say the least. After her education in Paris where she became an dedicated communist, she returned to Vietnam to become one of the founding members of the “National Liberation Front” (Viet Cong) and served as their chief medical officer. She was later named as a “Heroine of the Revolution” which is similar to receiving the “Congressional Medal of Honor.”
During the war she had circulated among Saigon’s social elite at cocktail parties attended by the inner circle of the South Vietnamese president and American military advisors who were oblivious to the fact she was a communist spy. In early 1968 during the “Tet Offensive”, Dr. Hoa and her husband fled Saigon to the vast Viet Cong tunnel complex in Cu Chi. There, the couple's son died of encephalitis.
After the communist takeover of the South in 1975, their corrupt leadership soon proved to be a total disaster. Dr. Hoa renounced her membership in the communist party and became an outspoken critic of communist regime. She stated, "I have been a communist all my life, but now I've seen the realities of Communism, and it is a failure — mismanagement, corruption, privilege, repression. My ideals are gone." She declared that “The communists may have won the war but they lost the peace.” She was too famous to touch so she became a thorn in the side of the government.
After that exploratory trip to Vietnam, I founded “Vets With A Mission” – a humanitarian and missionary organization to Vietnam. In those early years, Dr. Hoa sponsored us in our humanitarian activities as we built clinics, supported orphanages, and covertly worked with the underground house church. During a meeting, she looked at me and said, “Bill, I believe the only hope for Vietnam is Christianity.” That profound admission from a former communist leader taught me a powerful lesson that day about His sovereign ability to redeem anyone’s pasts and work it all together for good.
Her influential backing was instrumental in helping to open the doors of the “bamboo curtain” and further the gospel in that tragic land. It also underscored the lesson Paul ministered to the Philippian church while under house arrest in Caesars palace; “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the FURTHERANCE of the Gospel.” - (Philippians 1:12) The word “furtherance” was taken from a military term used for a special unit of combat engineers who would go before the attacking legions to cut down obstacles and clear a path so the army could advance without hindrances.
So too, all the frustrating delays and hardships from imprisonment, assassination plots, trials, hurricane, shipwreck and a snakebite he had endured leading up to his arrival in Rome had not worked against him but for him. Though he could not see this at the time, they had worked together to strategically deposit him in the very heart of the emperor’s palace where he was able to testify to the rotating shifts of his Praetorium Guards (the elite bodyguard of the emperor) who would eventually carry Paul’s words to commands all over the far-flung reaches of Rome. He was able to minister the Gospel to influential members of Caesars staff and the many dignitaries that passed through. He was so divinely positioned that he could close his letter to the Philippians with these triumphant words, “All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household.” So too, God was able to redeem for us all the traumas and tragedies of our experiences in Vietnam for the furtherance of the gospel. Likewise, even though you don’t see it now, He is working all of your trails and hardships together for the furtherance of His divine plan for your life.